Happy Monday 

If you’re having a slow start to your Monday, you’re not alone.


Take your time. 

Take your meds as prescribed.  

Have a yummy kale smoothie for breakfast and / or lunch.  

Get the day moving with music that makes you move.  

If you go outside, don’t forget your Lupus protective gear. 

Have a poppin Monday 💜

Lupus Overlap Diseases

What do I mean by Lupus overlap diseases?

Many people with Lupus have symptoms of one or more of other connective tissue diseases. Your doctor may refer to this as an “overlap.”

These overlap diseases are usually a closely related group of disorders that affect the connective tissues of the body.

I have actually been diagnosed with a few of these overlaps as well. To date, I have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, Scleroderma (CREST), Polymyositis, and Dermatomyositis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, and Vitiligo as well as SLE. My doctor also is suspecting the presence of Sarcoidosis in my body but she stopped short of a diagnosis.

SCLERODERMA

Systemic Sclerosis, also known as Scleroderma, is an autoimmune disease derived from the Greek words “sclero”meaning hard and “derma” meaning skin.  One of the most common symptoms of this condition is the hardening of the skin.

The milder form of Scleroderma is called localized Scleroderma. This localized version of the disease is generally found to affect the skin and muscles only. It does not attack internal organs much like Lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

The more complicated form of Scleroderma, which I have, is called Systemic Scleroderma. This type can attack different internal organs along with the skin including the esophagus, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, kidneys, and heart. It can also affect the muscles, joints, and blood vessels.  The hardening of these organs and tissues can cause them to function less efficiently.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissues. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in a patient’s joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that is systemic, meaning it can occur throughout the body. A patient will likely experience various periods of flares and remissions that differ in length and severity.

RAYNAUD’S PHENOMENON

Raynaud’s Phenomenon represents a problem with blood flow that causes your fingers, toes, and the tip of your nose and ears to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. It can be quite an annoyance and affect your day unexpectedly. Most of the time it only lasts for a short period while your body is reacting to the cold or stress. In Raynaud’s disease, the smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow and limit blood circulation to affected areas. Like many of the diseases listed as “overlap” diseases, women are more likely to have Raynaud’s disease. Go figure.

SJOGREN’S SYNDROME

Sjogren’s syndrome is characterized by inflammation of the exocrine glands. The symptoms vary from person to person. In my case, it affects my eyes and mouth mostly. My eyes and mouth get extremely dry and I have been put on Pilocarpine. It has shown to be quite helpful with my Sjogren’s. The Pilocarpine eye drops add moisture and the Pilocarpine pills taken orally assist my mouth in creating saliva.

Some people with Sjogren’s may experience digestive disorders which should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor to provide the best remedy. Pancreatic enzymes are often added to a person’s diet to help alleviate digestive problems.

Like other autoimmune diseases, the complications of Sjogren’s are much broader than the digestive system, eyes, and mouth. Do not hesitate to speak with your doctor concerning any new symptoms that are unrelated to your mouth and eyes. It is important to address new symptoms that may arise to avoid greater severity.

POLYMYOSITIS / DERMATOMYOSITIS

Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are disorders of the body’s connective tissues, which include tendons, ligaments and the dense sheets of collagen-based tissue that cover the ends of the muscles.

These diseases cause swelling and tenderness in the muscles (polymyositis) and sometimes the skin (dermatomyositis). The disease causes weaknesses in the arms and legs.

Both Polymyositis and dermatomyositis have symptoms in common with sclerosis or sometimes lupus.

Signs of these conditions may appear suddenly and severely or gradually and more mildly. Symptoms are more likely to be gradual in older people. Sometimes a person may have a serious infection before the symptoms begin.

The symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness. This is usually not noticeable until the disease is advanced and about half the muscle fibers have been destroyed. A person may have difficulty raising his or her arms above the shoulders, climbing steps or rising from sitting. If the neck muscles are seriously affected, it may not be possible for the person to lift his or her head from the pillow. If the muscles of the throat are affected, the person may have difficult using his or her voice.
  • Contraction of the arms and legs. While the hands, feet and face are usually not affected by this condition, the arms and legs may tighten up in the late stages of the disease.
  • Shortness of breath. This is caused by gradual damage and weakness of the chest wall and the muscles that move the diaphragm during breathing.
  • Difficulty swallowing. This may occur when the muscles of the throat and esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) are involved
  • Muscle tenderness or pain
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired
  • Weight loss

Compared to lupus or sclerosis, there is relatively little organ involvement with polymyositis. Sometimes, however, the effect on specific organs may be the first symptoms. These include breathing problems, heart disorders involving irregular rhythms or electrical signals, kidney failure or digestive tract ulcers.

If dermatomyositis occurs along with polymyositis, symptoms may also include:

  • Skin rash. This can be either raised and smooth or scaly. It may appear on the forehead, the neck, shoulders, chest and back, forearms and lower legs, elbows and knees or the joints of the fingers, toes, wrists and ankles.
  • Swelling around the eye. This may look purplish and bruised.
  • Swelling at the base and sides of the fingernails
  • Splitting of the skin of the fingers

While the skin eruptions often completely fade away, some leave behind brownish spots, scars or smooth white patches.

As you can see, most of the disorders listed above occur or “overlap” in other autoimmune diseases and may be difficult to differentiate which ones are originating from what. Therefore it is important to keep open communication with your doctor regarding your symptoms. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with your doctor or your doctor dismisses your concerns, it may be time to try to build a new relationship with a new doctor.

Be vigilant and stay informed. If you have questions, be sure to keep a list of them and ask your doctor at your next appointment. Whatever it takes, make your doctor pay attention to your concerns. Your doctor is your first line of defense in your fight. Good luck.

 

Lupus And The Heart

There’s no easy way to say it. Lupus raises your chances of heart disease and stroke. The most common heart problem in people with Lupus is inflammation in the sac around the heart. This can cause shortness of breath and sharp chest pains.

Sometimes steroids used as lupus treatments may increase this risk. Lupus complications are sometimes treated with powerful inflammation-fighters and medicines that calm down the immune system, such as corticosteroids like prednisone.

It is very important to note that taking corticosteroids for a long time can worsen heart health.  Doctors may want to lower the dose at times to avoid this serious complication.

Black women with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases need to pay extra attention to their heart health. Not only is heart disease the number one killer of all black women, but the death rate from heart disease is much higher in women of color. Black women are also three times more likely than white women to have Lupus—which in itself raises the risk for heart damage.

Coronary artery disease is common among Lupus patients in particular. More than a third of people with Lupus are at risk for this complication. Inflammation and various immune system abnormalities cause the coronary arteries to rapidly harden, narrow, and clog. This is called atherosclerosis. In time, clots can form or bits of plaque can break off from artery linings, interfering with blood flow to the heart and brain.

Less common causes of coronary artery problems in people with Lupus include inflammation of the artery walls, spasms of the arteries, and blood clots. Female Lupus patients are 50 times more likely than their peers to have chest pain or a heart attack.

Ladies, time to treat your heart with LOVE.

  1. Eat healthy. To keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control, fill up on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Eat baked or broiled fatty fish like salmon at least twice a week. It’s rich in heart-healthy omega-3 oil. Major key…Avoid fast foods and fried foods at all costs. If you can’t, try harder. But if you must eat them, keep it down to a minimum or choose the healthiest options available.
  2. Avoid smoking. If you are a smoker you really have no choice but to quit ASAP. I know it seems easier said than done, but you have no choice if you want to live. I smoked for almost 20 years and found it difficult to quit myself. I tried and failed several times until I got sick and realized how much tobacco was adding to the destruction of my body.
  3. Get regular exercise. Activities that are easy on your joints are crucial for Lupus patients. Yoga, swimming, pilates, are great ways to keep your heart and lungs strong with low impact on damaged joints.

Additionally, it is imperative to keep regular doctor visits as well as keeping your doctor informed of any unexpected changes such as shortness of breath and chest pain before these things escalate.

With effective communication and shared information, we are in a better position to arm ourselves for the Lupus and heart battle that many are not fortunate enough to avoid.

Is Vitiligo Associated With Lupus?

First off… What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition that causes loss of color in a person’s skin or hair.  When it affects the skin it leads to a white or lighter colored patch. In many people it affects the hair as well as the mouth, and eyes. People with milder Vitiligo have small  round spots of color loss while those with a more aggressive form tend to have larger patches of color loss.

Vitiligo is not as unheard of as it once was. People all over the world have vitiligo. It has developed in men and women of all ages and all skin tones. There is no real cure for vitiligo and it is usually discovered fairly early in life.

Even though vitiligo most often affects the skin, the condition also affects a person’s emotional state. More recent studies are investigating  vitiligo’s effect on physical health as well. According to research presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 73rd Annual Meeting in San Francisco, certain autoimmune diseases, including Lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, thyroid disease, and alopecia areata, may be more prevalent among vitiligo patients.

Most vitiligo patients do not have any physical symptoms other than skin lightening. Some people with vitiligo may complain of itchy and painful skin.

Some have complaints of emotional difficulties. The most common emotional side effect of vitiligo is the contribution to low self esteem due to drastic skin changes.

When the late great Michael Jackson was found to have vitiligo, it helped spread awareness of the condition and it’s awareness has only grown since. Beauties like Winnie Harlow, Tamar Braxton, and  Holly Marie Combs have also given a voice to vitiligo as they share their own personal experiences with the condition.

Other famous black people with vitiligo include Emmy award winning Lee Thomas, American rapper and singer Bigg Krizz Kalico, NBA player Rasheed Abdul Wallace, NY Jets football coach Karl Dunbar, and American ballet star Michaela DePrince.

My Own Experience With Vitiligo…

About 15 years ago, I began to notice small white spots on my calves. My skin is fairly dark kind of like a rich milk chocolate. well, at least it used to be.

Because my skin was so dark, I would only notice them when putting moisturizing lotion on my legs. After a couple years, I would notice them more in the summer when my legs were exposed to the sun more often.

They didn’t hurt at all but I figured I would see a dermatologist. At my appointment, the dermatologist asked if I used hot water when I showered. I answered, “Yes.”

And he said, “Stop.”

That was it. Nothing more. Nothing less. He basically told me that to stop using such hot water and to use warm water in the shower.

So I was convinced I had been burning the color off my skin in the shower. That’s just crazy.

But I went home and learned to bathe in lukewarm water and it did not make a difference at all. I chose to ignore it for a couple years until I asked another dermatologist while in Chicago.

This doctor told me it was being caused by whatever product  I was using in the shower. I told the doctor that I used just a regular body wash from the drugstore. And she said to stop using it.

And I thought, “Oh My Goodness. Here we go again.”

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Fast forward about six years later, after being diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I was finally diagnosed with vitiligo.

I went for an appointment with my new PCP. I showed my doctor the white spots which had now spread across the entire length of my thighs, my calves, ankles, upper and lower arm, and hands.

The pattern was very uniform all across my body. I have larger round patches on the lower half of my legs but smaller patches everywhere else. After careful observation, she was completely convinced it was a mild version of vitiligo that did not require treatment at this time.

My doctor told me that a treatment may be given to me later if the patches became very large. She said, at this time, it seemed unnecessary.

To date, the patches have remained the same and I am not on any treatment for my vitiligo. From afar, it is not very noticeable. But in a well lit area from close up, you may find a spot or seven or eight. For now, I just view them as more war wounds in this lupus fight.

 

I Know I’ve Been MIA

I know I’ve been missing in action lately. My apologies. My body was completely out of gas and it was doing things I didn’t recognize, so I had to seek a little medical intervention. I made a quick hospital run which didn’t turn out to be so quick. But things are improving and I will be back REAL SOON.

 

Lupus Statistics By Race

 

There is an estimated 1.5 million Americans affected by Lupus. Black women are three times more likely than Caucasian women to get lupus and may develop more severe symptoms. Studies show that as many as 1 in every 250 black women are affected with Lupus.

Lupus is also two times more prevalent in Asian-American and Hispanic women in comparison to Caucasian women. It should also be noted that Native American women are disproportionately affected as well.

The well-known ‘Lupus in Minorities: Nature Versus Nurture (LUMINA) study’ tracked death, damage, disability, and disease activity.

The researchers have published numerous papers reporting findings on the relative contribution of genetic factors on the course and outcome of Lupus in Latinos, African-Americans, and Caucasians.

LUMINA findings include:

  • African-Americans and Hispanic women with Lupus tend to develop the disease earlier in life. We also experience greater disease activity such as kidney and cardiovascular problems.
  • Latinas had a poorer prognosis overall than Caucasian women. They were more likely to have kidney damage, and also showed a more rapid rate of kidney failure.
  • African-Americans were also found to have a higher frequency of neurological problems such as seizures, hemorrhage, and stroke, whereas Latinas were found to experience a higher level of cardiac disease.

Overall, we have more complications than Caucasian patients. This fact, primarily, was a driving force for me to start Melanin and Lupus. I believe strongly in spreading awareness of the impact Lupus has on the minority community in order to minimize our mortality rate.

A less extensive study in New York City during the period from 1955 to 1964 showed annual lupus mortality of 5.5 and 15.4 per million for Caucasian and African‐American women, respectively. Such mortality risk difference continued in the subsequent 5‐year period (Caucasian women 5.2 per million and African‐American women 14.8 per million per year).

In my personal opinion, this could be due in part to socioeconomic factors. Minority groups have reportedly less access to sufficient health care and, therefore, may prevent an early diagnosis. Minority groups have more frequent instances of hospitalization due to Lupus flare ups and are generally only treated for the symptoms.

By simply treating the symptoms without a proper Lupus diagnosis, the organ involvement can be quite widespread.  This often results in higher rates of re-hospitalization and many times a diagnosis is received far too late. This is just unacceptable. We must arm ourselves with knowledge in the fight against Lupus.

Life Threatening Complications of Lupus

Historically, in the 1950’s, most people with Lupus lived fewer than five years.

Due to the development of modern Lupus treatments, most people with Lupus can expect to live a normal life span. Some Lupus patients may go on to live a very near normal life span.

However, there are some Lupus warriors that may experience life threatening complications of Lupus. Most commonly, death in Lupus patients is caused by organ failure.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE or HEART ATTACK

The leading cause of death by organ failure is from cardiovascular disease. This can be attributed to accelerated atherosclerosis. In order to prevent cardiovascular disease in Lupus patients, it is imperative to either prevent or treat aggressively any cases of high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Steroids treatments are a common defense for Lupus. In patients with elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol, steroids should not be given to patients for extended use. Also, the dosage given should be the lowest possible.

KIDNEY DISEASE

Similarly, it is very common for Lupus to negatively impact the kidneys. When this occurs, it is referred to as Lupus nephritis. When the tiny filters in the kidneys are damaged, it results in the loss of kidney function. This commonly results in fluid retention therefore resulting in inflammation and weight gain.

If lupus nephritis is not treated, it may result in permanent kidney damage which can lead to end stage renal disease or kidney failure. In  this case, a Lupus patient, will need dialysis to clean the blood.

If kidney failure progresses slowly, your doctor should consider a preemptive kidney transplant before dialysis becomes your only option. Transplantation can prolong life and subsequently improve your overall quality of life.

PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS

As I discussed previously in my personal story,  Lupus (SLE) can increase your risk of dangerous pregnancy complications. These complications may include stillbirth, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, and occasionally an ectopic pregnancy (which can be, in and of itself, life threatening to the pregnant mother.)

It is imperative to have pregnancies closely monitored by your doctor. Your specialist and OB/GYN should monitor your progress and detect any complications early.

If at all possible, pregnancies in Lupus patients should be planned ahead in order to avoid getting pregnant during a Lupus flare. If your flare symptoms are particularly severe, most doctors would advise against getting pregnant until the flare symptoms have subsided. This would lessen the chances of pregnancy complications mentioned above.

 

 

 

Is Lupus Contagious?

One of the most common questions I get would be, “Is Lupus contagious?”

The simple answer. No. Lupus is not contagious and can not be transmitted from person to person through any means.

However, many genetic predispositions and gene environment interactions have been shown to predispose certain people to develop this awful and unpredictable autoimmune disease.

No need to worry. You won’t catch it from someone. And if you already have it, you won’t infect those around you.

How Do I Avoid a Lupus Flare Up?

If you have been wondering how to stop or avoid a Lupus flare up, I’ve got some great tips for you.

  • Avoid direct sunlight whenever possible. Stay indoors during the day when the sun is hottest. (10 a.m-3 p.m)  If you must go outside, be sure to wear protective gear such as wide brim hats, visors, light colored clothing, and really dope sunglasses.

 

 

  •  Avoid stress. Physical and mental stress are major Lupus triggers. So stay calm…and avoid stress. In other words, stay away from people and situations that will piss you off.

 

 

  •   Exercise. This one can be difficult for some who experience shortness of breath and/or  joint pain and inflammation. But do your best to find activities to keep you active.

 

 

  • Get plenty of rest. Many people may experience sleep problems, but you have to try hard to shut your overactive mind down and get some beauty sleep.

 

 

  • Take your medications as prescribed. Set an alarm or if you need a reminder to take your meds on time. If your meds are causing side effects that are too difficult to handle, be sure to consult your doctor for alternatives.

 

 

  •  Avoid foods that cause inflammation. Things like dairy, sugar, grain fed meats, and bad fats are very likely to cause inflammation in your body. Stay away from them.

Follow the tips above and your body will surely thank you for it.

Melanin And Lupus - Blog Directory OnToplist.com“>Melanin And Lupus - Blog Directory OnToplist.com

 

Foods That Fight Lupus Inflammation

The following foods have been proven to reduce inflammation due to Lupus:

  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, callalloo, collards
  • Fatty fish containing omega 3s like salmon, tuna, mackerel, eel, butterfish, carp, and sardines
  • Fruits like strawberries, apples, grapes, and blueberries
  • Coconut oil and olive oil
  • Healthy nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Tomatoes
Kick Lupus’ Ass With Food